A schoolmaster for much of his working life, also the founder and general editor, with Anne Serraillier, of the New Windmill series (over 400 titles) for Heinemann Educational Books, Ian Serraillier is best known for his novel The Silver Sword published in 1956.
This, without doubt, is his finest achievement. The straightforward, matter-of-fact prose style fits the storyline perfectly – of a family of Polish children searching war-torn Europe for their parents:
`They liked the stories from the Old Testament best. Their favourite was always Daniel in the lion’s den. They enjoyed it just as a story, but for Ruth it had a deeper meaning. She thought of it as the story of their own troubles…’
For Ian Serraillier, all the best stories had a `deeper meaning’ and his re-telling of ancient legends – of amongst others, Hercules, Jason, Theseus, Beowulf and Sir Gawain – testified to this with a vigour, skill and read-aloud quality which brings them within the range of youngsters otherwise all too likely to miss them.
He was also a writer, and anthologist, of verse:
`”Who’s that tickling my back,” said the wall.
“Me,” said a small
Caterpillar. “I’m learning
In short, a literary all rounder.
Ian Serraillier once said “I cannot remember a time when I did not want to become a writer. I was practising all the time, even when I was still at school…”
Lucky for many children that he did.